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Tree Branches Touching Power Lines
Last updated: 12 October 2020
Tree branches touching or in close proximity to power lines can be very dangerous. Branches can move a great deal in the wind and can easily break power lines.
Branches near power lines need to be trimmed to a 15-foot minimum distance. If the trunk of the tree is slower than 2 feet, it may be worth investigating having it removed.
If you have a tree close to or touching a power line, it is advisable that you seek out a local arborist or tree service and have them trim the tree for you. Attempting to trim trees close to power lines can be deadly so extreme caution is advisable.
Who is responsible for tree branches on power lines?
Electric utilities companies are the ones responsible for trimming street trees that are touching power lines. The National Electrical Safety Code requires them to do so.
If the tree is however on your land, you will be required to pay for the trimming yourself. Normally if your tree is hanging out near street power lines, the utility company will just cut them when they do the rounds. But if it is touching the service line to your house, you will need to manage the tree yourself.
Most of the time landowners are responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of trees on their property, this includes the trimming of trees clear from power lines.
Tree limbs touching street power lines
It is important to note that trees or branches being too close to transmission lines is pretty dangerous. The voltage can run through the tree to the ground and zap people or pets.
Taller trees can be blown by the wind and pull down the line from the poles which could hurt a passerby. This is why clearance is important.
So how much clearance do you need? High voltage power lines are high above the ground, this means that electricity may reach the ground through the tree. In order to prevent this, ensure all the trees are at a safe distance of 10 – 15 feet.
This clearance allows for the sagging of new lines and the movement of trees in the wind.
Sagging refers to when the power lines are carrying heavy electrical loads in warm weather. This causes the lines to heat up and stretch making them longer and sag longer and lower than before.
Does the tree owner pay for cutting tree limbs touching power lines?
If the tree is on your property and touching the service line to your home, then you need to have it trimmed. The utility company will trim your tree if it is growing out over public land and into power lines.
Given that the utility company can access power lines on your premises without your consent, in some cities they may just come in and just cut it. In most cities, however, they have an inspector who will go around and notify residents their trees are too close to power lines and they must have them trimmed.
Are trees touching power lines dangerous?
Trees that come into contact with the power lines can be very dangerous. This is because they can carry the electricity through them and especially if it is a high voltage power line, it can zap people. Some people do not know that power lines can electrify trees and be a danger to them and their pets.
The power lines do not even have to physically touch the tree to be dangerous, a voltage surge can cause an arc from the transmission line. This is very dangerous as the current can not only kill anyone but also cause a fire. The worst part is, you can never truly tell whether a tree has been electrified or not just by looking at it.
When a tree touches a power line, you should keep off and warn others about it immediately before contacting the local utility. Since it is difficult to tell whether a tree is electrified or not, this may end up causing serious harm to other people.
Power outages can also occur due to arcing. It is required that enough clearance be given especially for transmission lines with high voltage power.
Can branches conduct electricity?
Branches can conduct electricity. When a tree is in contact or comes close enough to a power line, it can be energized. This can be very dangerous as it may lead to electrocution to anyone touching it or can cause the tree to catch fire.
Since branches can conduct electricity, it is always recommended that you do not try cutting down branches touching the power line. You will be putting yourself at the risk of an electric shock.
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Pruning trees near electrical utilities
Pruning trees is very important and has many benefits, however, pruning near trees’ electrical utilities can be very dangerous. This is why you should always consider hiring an electric utility contractor rather than to do it yourself.
Pruning trees near electric utilities ensures safety for the people living close by. It can also be referred to as clearance. If the tree in question is less than 10 feet away from a power line, do not attempt pruning it unless you are a certified professional.
Since the wind or snow can break branches growing near or above power lines, pruning should always be done to direct them to grow away from the wires. You can achieve this by directional pruning.
Directional pruning involves removal and reduction cuts. This is the most recommended way to prune your trees. You should deter from using methods such as ‘topping’ as they affect the tree’s health. Topping promotes wood decay and shortens a tree’s lifespan.
The most recommended method is directional pruning. However, this is only a temporary solution as with enough access to sunlight, the branch will still grow to its original position.
Who to call about tree branches touching power lines?
If you notice a tree branch making contact with a power line or even being close enough, contact the local power company. Do not attempt to fix the problem by yourself. A lot of people get injured or electrocuted from such cases.
Keep the children, pets and anyone close by from going near the tree until the local power company gets there.
You could also call for a certified professional if you want the entire tree cut down or pruned regularly. This is because of the danger it poses. Branches close to the power lines can be electrified and this can hurt your children or pets.
Even when the branch is close to a power line and not making contact, it is still dangerous. Electricity can arc to the nearby tree on given occasions. For example, in the case of lightning, a voltage surge may lead to arcing of the electricity.
This is why you need to inform the proper authorities so that they can take the necessary precautions and fix the problem.
Cost of professional branch trimming near power lines
The cost of trimming a tree depends on a number of reasons. These include the size of the tree, the number of branches to be trimmed or removed or even the tree size. So generally, the cost depends on your situation.
If you are concerned about the size, small trees near a power line between 15 to 20 feet tall would cost you somewhere between $250 and $525. Medium trees might cost you between $290 to $720. This is when you just require a moderate number of branches to be taken off.
Large trees of 30 to 50 feet tall should cost you somewhere around $500 to $1200. A much larger tree of up to 100 feet fall might cost you up to $2000. As stated earlier, the cost of branch trimming varies on a number of things.
If you don’t feel like spending that much money, here are a few tips that will help you get the job done cheaper:
Do not go for marketers – If you see an ad on yellow pages or on Google, don’t go for it. Companies that pay for higher advertising costs are expensive. This is because of the high cost of advertising incurred.
Ask around – Do not just pick the first quote you receive. Look for other tree trimming companies and compare their prices; this is important especially if you are new to this. You never know the next offer might be cheaper.
Get your trees trimmed during winter – Since this is the offseason, you will get much cheaper offers than you would during peak season. Make the supply and demand force work in your favor.
Good access – Depending on where your tree is located, you might be charged differently. If your tree is in the backyard consider removing a panel of your fence to make work so much easier. This gives the workers fewer hassles as opposed to dragging out the branches that have been cut down from the backyard.
Consider your options – Depending on your situation, you can ask for an option that works for you. Given that you are trimming the branches, you can ask them to trim and clear the remains or just trim and leave the remains. Cleaning up yourself later can save you a buck or two.
Finally, when looking for a good tree trimming service, insist on them fixing a price that suits your tree requirements. To them, every job is different hence let them state their price after considering the workload required.
If they charge by the hour as some companies do, you need to consider their manpower and how fast they can get the job done.
Author: Ben McInerney – Ben is a qualified arborist with 15 plus years of industry experience in Arboriculture. He ran a successful tree service before turning to writing and publishing. Ben is dedicated to providing users with the most accurate up-to-date information on everything trees.
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